Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 28, 2009

Re: They’ve Busted Themselves

Joseph Abrams reports that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was not waterboarded 183 times, as the New York Times reported; rather water was poured onto his face 183 times over the course of, at most, five waterboarding sessions. The Times’s eagerness to put the most catastrophic face on anything Bush-related is old news. So, too, is its willingness to shirk journalistic standards in pursuit of that achievement. What’s newly relevant is that once again further airing of CIA interrogation techniqes breaks in favor of the techniques’ defenders.

George W. Bush’s critics spent eight years feverishly accusing the administration of crimes. They had it easy because there was no serious burden of proof. But the prospect of an actual investigation means they can no longer play fast and loose with the facts.  Convicting a party of federal crimes isn’t like making a paranoid “documentary” or writing a best-selling hit job. The charges have to jibe with reality, for a change.

Joseph Abrams reports that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was not waterboarded 183 times, as the New York Times reported; rather water was poured onto his face 183 times over the course of, at most, five waterboarding sessions. The Times’s eagerness to put the most catastrophic face on anything Bush-related is old news. So, too, is its willingness to shirk journalistic standards in pursuit of that achievement. What’s newly relevant is that once again further airing of CIA interrogation techniqes breaks in favor of the techniques’ defenders.

George W. Bush’s critics spent eight years feverishly accusing the administration of crimes. They had it easy because there was no serious burden of proof. But the prospect of an actual investigation means they can no longer play fast and loose with the facts.  Convicting a party of federal crimes isn’t like making a paranoid “documentary” or writing a best-selling hit job. The charges have to jibe with reality, for a change.

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Is Big Labor Going To Take This?

Sen. Arlen Specter, whose word one must take with an asterisk, declares his position on card check to be unchanged. So Big Labor is now supposed to sit out a competitive Senate race and meekly accept Specter as the standard bearer of the Democratic Party? Hmm.

I suspect one of two things will occur: either Specter will have new insight into the “plight of workers” or Labor will challenge him in the primary. Why should they risk leaving a seat to someone who is not a solid “yes” vote for card check? (This should also make Red state Democrats squirm as card check may be perceived to be back in “play,” forcing them to risk Big Labor’s wrath to preserve their own political future.)

Yes, Harry Reid made whatever promises he made to Specter to support him in the primary, but unless Big Labor has once again shown remarkable political density, it will seize the chance to find a “real” Democrat. Indeed Big Labor will not be alone as liberal Democrats begin to ask why they should vote for an 79-year old lifelong Republican who discovered the Democratic Party just in time ( he hoped) to save his skin. It may be that Specter’s cravenness turns out to be for naught.

Sen. Arlen Specter, whose word one must take with an asterisk, declares his position on card check to be unchanged. So Big Labor is now supposed to sit out a competitive Senate race and meekly accept Specter as the standard bearer of the Democratic Party? Hmm.

I suspect one of two things will occur: either Specter will have new insight into the “plight of workers” or Labor will challenge him in the primary. Why should they risk leaving a seat to someone who is not a solid “yes” vote for card check? (This should also make Red state Democrats squirm as card check may be perceived to be back in “play,” forcing them to risk Big Labor’s wrath to preserve their own political future.)

Yes, Harry Reid made whatever promises he made to Specter to support him in the primary, but unless Big Labor has once again shown remarkable political density, it will seize the chance to find a “real” Democrat. Indeed Big Labor will not be alone as liberal Democrats begin to ask why they should vote for an 79-year old lifelong Republican who discovered the Democratic Party just in time ( he hoped) to save his skin. It may be that Specter’s cravenness turns out to be for naught.

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The Purity Brigade Strikes Again, and Strikes Out

There has been, on the Right, a terrible confusion these past two decades–a confusion between the precepts of conservatism and the role of the Republican party. In all its iterations, American conservatism is about matters of conviction on all manner of subjects from the role of the United States in the world to the role of government in our lives to the role of moral questions in political life. The Republican party is not about these things. It is a political vehicle, and as such it represents not a worldview but a tendency. That tendency can be summed up very simply–smaller rather than larger government; a stronger rather than a weaker America; and traditional rather than evolutionary values.

The Republican party fared well from, say, 1968 to 2008 because, for the most part, Americans tended to side with the general sense that smaller rather than larger government was best; that it was better to project strength; and that it was better to hue to established ways. It is not clear that the American people still have this general sense, or they are more willing to try on a different outfit right now. What they did not sign up for, what they never signed up for, was specific ideological combat in these categories. To wit: they might like traditional values per se, but that does not lead them to support Congressional intervention in the question of whether Terri Schiavo’s life support should or should not be removed. They might like strength, but that does not mean they signed up for five years of war. They might like the idea of smaller government, but that does not guide them with respect to an economic crisis in which the small-government candidate talks more passionately about Congressional earmarks rather than what is to be done to save the banking system.

The defection of Arlen Specter from the GOP, following the effort by the Club of Growth to target him for defeat in the Republican primary, is an example of how confused conservative ideologues can get about the nature of the Republican party. Specter is, without question, a political snake of the highest order, and in many ways the worst kind of politician–one who sniffs the air and puts his finger to the wind and then has the colossal temerity to declare that he is doing so out of conviction. But there are lots of snakes in politics. Specter enraged Republicans by voting for the stimulus package. But he is also standing in opposition to the effort by labor unions to end the secret ballot. He wasn’t much, and he wasn’t good, but aiming for his destruction without thinking about the recourse that he might have to resort to is, without question, the most self-destructive act in modern political history. His defection to the Democratic party, which will, in short order, deprive the Republicans of any power whatsoever in the Senate.

Politics is not about casting the easy vote for the person you admire. It’s really about choosing the least bad alternative. The foes of Specter in Pennsylvania thought their least bad alternative was challenging him in a primary he would lose. Now they will really discover what the least bad alternative might have been. And so will we all.

There has been, on the Right, a terrible confusion these past two decades–a confusion between the precepts of conservatism and the role of the Republican party. In all its iterations, American conservatism is about matters of conviction on all manner of subjects from the role of the United States in the world to the role of government in our lives to the role of moral questions in political life. The Republican party is not about these things. It is a political vehicle, and as such it represents not a worldview but a tendency. That tendency can be summed up very simply–smaller rather than larger government; a stronger rather than a weaker America; and traditional rather than evolutionary values.

The Republican party fared well from, say, 1968 to 2008 because, for the most part, Americans tended to side with the general sense that smaller rather than larger government was best; that it was better to project strength; and that it was better to hue to established ways. It is not clear that the American people still have this general sense, or they are more willing to try on a different outfit right now. What they did not sign up for, what they never signed up for, was specific ideological combat in these categories. To wit: they might like traditional values per se, but that does not lead them to support Congressional intervention in the question of whether Terri Schiavo’s life support should or should not be removed. They might like strength, but that does not mean they signed up for five years of war. They might like the idea of smaller government, but that does not guide them with respect to an economic crisis in which the small-government candidate talks more passionately about Congressional earmarks rather than what is to be done to save the banking system.

The defection of Arlen Specter from the GOP, following the effort by the Club of Growth to target him for defeat in the Republican primary, is an example of how confused conservative ideologues can get about the nature of the Republican party. Specter is, without question, a political snake of the highest order, and in many ways the worst kind of politician–one who sniffs the air and puts his finger to the wind and then has the colossal temerity to declare that he is doing so out of conviction. But there are lots of snakes in politics. Specter enraged Republicans by voting for the stimulus package. But he is also standing in opposition to the effort by labor unions to end the secret ballot. He wasn’t much, and he wasn’t good, but aiming for his destruction without thinking about the recourse that he might have to resort to is, without question, the most self-destructive act in modern political history. His defection to the Democratic party, which will, in short order, deprive the Republicans of any power whatsoever in the Senate.

Politics is not about casting the easy vote for the person you admire. It’s really about choosing the least bad alternative. The foes of Specter in Pennsylvania thought their least bad alternative was challenging him in a primary he would lose. Now they will really discover what the least bad alternative might have been. And so will we all.

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Commentary of the Day

jdp, on Jennifer Rubin:

The big problem here is that he will need Obama’s support to win reelection as a Democrat. Obama will extract whatever quid pro quo he wants in exchange for his support. My guess is that Specter becomes a fairly reliable Democratic vote in short order. He will be allowed to break from the group occasionally – enough to keep his “independent” cloak safe – but on any and every really serious proposal (card check, health care, FOCA, any big budget bills) he’s a safe Democrat vote now. It’s the price he’s paid for one more term in congress.

jdp, on Jennifer Rubin:

The big problem here is that he will need Obama’s support to win reelection as a Democrat. Obama will extract whatever quid pro quo he wants in exchange for his support. My guess is that Specter becomes a fairly reliable Democratic vote in short order. He will be allowed to break from the group occasionally – enough to keep his “independent” cloak safe – but on any and every really serious proposal (card check, health care, FOCA, any big budget bills) he’s a safe Democrat vote now. It’s the price he’s paid for one more term in congress.

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Save Pontiac! (Kill Buick!)

Today’s news out of Michigan is deeply troubling: as 21,000 General Motors workers lose their jobs, GM has offered the U.S. Treasury a 50% stake in the company in exchange for the government forgiving $20 billion (!) in debt.  As if that weren’t bad enough, GM has added insult to injury: yesterday, it announced that it would discontinue its Pontiac line, opting instead to protect the Buick.

Apparently, Buicks sell well in China and – insofar as China’s economy keeps growing annually at an impressive rate – that’s nothing to sneeze at.  But let’s face it: Buicks are ugly, boat-like contraptions that typically come in decidedly unappealing colors. (Even its nicer models – such as Buick’s SUV-sedan “crossover” – can, at best, be called mundane.)  Buicks also have pathetically non-distinctive model names, such as the LaCrosse, Lucerne, and Enclave.  And they aren’t particularly cheap – apparently, there are people who shell out $26,000-$35,000 for these killjoys.

Compare this to the Pontiac.  For starters, Pontiacs are iconic, instantly recognizable by their symmetrically bifurcated, diamond-patterned grilles – a feature that is standardized across virtually all models.  Moreover, Pontiacs are, for the most part, very decent-looking cars: strong colors, interesting detailing, and a few truly stunning models in the mix.  Finally, there’s the issue of branding: which sounds like it’s more fun to drive – the “Buick LaCrosse” or the “Pontiac G6″?  And, considering that the latter has similar features but is $5,000 cheaper, which will be more fun to buy?

In short, so long as American tax dollars are going to be thrown at GM, can’t we at least ensure that GM saves a car that Americans can get excited about?  Indeed, let the Buick join the Oldsmobile in car heaven – save the Pontiac!

Today’s news out of Michigan is deeply troubling: as 21,000 General Motors workers lose their jobs, GM has offered the U.S. Treasury a 50% stake in the company in exchange for the government forgiving $20 billion (!) in debt.  As if that weren’t bad enough, GM has added insult to injury: yesterday, it announced that it would discontinue its Pontiac line, opting instead to protect the Buick.

Apparently, Buicks sell well in China and – insofar as China’s economy keeps growing annually at an impressive rate – that’s nothing to sneeze at.  But let’s face it: Buicks are ugly, boat-like contraptions that typically come in decidedly unappealing colors. (Even its nicer models – such as Buick’s SUV-sedan “crossover” – can, at best, be called mundane.)  Buicks also have pathetically non-distinctive model names, such as the LaCrosse, Lucerne, and Enclave.  And they aren’t particularly cheap – apparently, there are people who shell out $26,000-$35,000 for these killjoys.

Compare this to the Pontiac.  For starters, Pontiacs are iconic, instantly recognizable by their symmetrically bifurcated, diamond-patterned grilles – a feature that is standardized across virtually all models.  Moreover, Pontiacs are, for the most part, very decent-looking cars: strong colors, interesting detailing, and a few truly stunning models in the mix.  Finally, there’s the issue of branding: which sounds like it’s more fun to drive – the “Buick LaCrosse” or the “Pontiac G6″?  And, considering that the latter has similar features but is $5,000 cheaper, which will be more fun to buy?

In short, so long as American tax dollars are going to be thrown at GM, can’t we at least ensure that GM saves a car that Americans can get excited about?  Indeed, let the Buick join the Oldsmobile in car heaven – save the Pontiac!

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Re: Specter Switcheroo

Eric and Jonathan, I agree with your smart analysis and would add a few thoughts.

First, there is a breathtaking degree of opportunism at work. Specter recently declared: “I’m staying a Republican because I think I have a more important role to play there.” On the subject of control of government he had pronounced: “I think each of the 41 Republican senators, in a sense — and I don’t want to overstate this — is a national asset because if one was gone, you’d only have 40, the Democrats would have 60, and they would control all of the mechanisms of government.” And as for the leader of his new party, Specter declared:

And because if we lose my seat they have 60 Democrats, they will pass card check, you will have the Obama tax increases, they will carry out his big spending plans. So the 41st Republican, whose name is Arlen Specter is vital to stopping tax increases, passage of card check, and the Obama big spending plans.”

One wonders what the limits of political opportunism must be and whether voters of either party care much for this sort of spineless shifting. As a staffer in his office confided to me, “It is all about him.” Indeed. And in a presser today Sen. Mitch McConnell blows the whistle on his opportunistic colleague:

Well obviously we are not happy that Senator Specter has decided to become a Democrat. He visited with me in my office late yesterday afternoon and told me quite candidly that he’d been informed by his pollster that it would be impossible for him to be re-elected in Pennsylvania as a Republican because he could not win the primary. And he was also informed by his pollster that he could not get elected as an Independent and indicated that he had decided to become a Democrat.

Second, will this make a huge difference? Well, Specter voted to confirm Eric Holder and for the Obama stimulus plan. This month he’s opposed to card check but who knows about the future. He voted against the president’s budget but seemed very upset with his “banana republic” approach to a Truth Commission on interrogation techniques. In short, the Republicans could expect no loyalty on filibuster votes and I suspect the Democrats will be in the same boat. He was never a “safe” or reliable 40th vote. Republicans are marginally, but not dramatically, worse off now.

And finally, for months leading up to this moment, the Republican leadership including Sens. John Cornyn and McConnell went to great lengths to avoid criticism and support their ofter wayward colleague. In multiple interviews I have had with Sen. McConnell he never uttered anything but support for Specter, often refusing to take the opportunity to ding him. Their efforts were roundly criticized by their own base. It must be galling indeed to see today that that loyalty was for naught. A party must be flexible and broad in order to govern, but it depends on the loyalty and willingness of its adherents to stomach tough times. In this case the “fault” sits squarely with Specter.

And we’ll now see if voters agree with  Jonathan Chait’s conclusion that Specter personifies “hackdom.”

Eric and Jonathan, I agree with your smart analysis and would add a few thoughts.

First, there is a breathtaking degree of opportunism at work. Specter recently declared: “I’m staying a Republican because I think I have a more important role to play there.” On the subject of control of government he had pronounced: “I think each of the 41 Republican senators, in a sense — and I don’t want to overstate this — is a national asset because if one was gone, you’d only have 40, the Democrats would have 60, and they would control all of the mechanisms of government.” And as for the leader of his new party, Specter declared:

And because if we lose my seat they have 60 Democrats, they will pass card check, you will have the Obama tax increases, they will carry out his big spending plans. So the 41st Republican, whose name is Arlen Specter is vital to stopping tax increases, passage of card check, and the Obama big spending plans.”

One wonders what the limits of political opportunism must be and whether voters of either party care much for this sort of spineless shifting. As a staffer in his office confided to me, “It is all about him.” Indeed. And in a presser today Sen. Mitch McConnell blows the whistle on his opportunistic colleague:

Well obviously we are not happy that Senator Specter has decided to become a Democrat. He visited with me in my office late yesterday afternoon and told me quite candidly that he’d been informed by his pollster that it would be impossible for him to be re-elected in Pennsylvania as a Republican because he could not win the primary. And he was also informed by his pollster that he could not get elected as an Independent and indicated that he had decided to become a Democrat.

Second, will this make a huge difference? Well, Specter voted to confirm Eric Holder and for the Obama stimulus plan. This month he’s opposed to card check but who knows about the future. He voted against the president’s budget but seemed very upset with his “banana republic” approach to a Truth Commission on interrogation techniques. In short, the Republicans could expect no loyalty on filibuster votes and I suspect the Democrats will be in the same boat. He was never a “safe” or reliable 40th vote. Republicans are marginally, but not dramatically, worse off now.

And finally, for months leading up to this moment, the Republican leadership including Sens. John Cornyn and McConnell went to great lengths to avoid criticism and support their ofter wayward colleague. In multiple interviews I have had with Sen. McConnell he never uttered anything but support for Specter, often refusing to take the opportunity to ding him. Their efforts were roundly criticized by their own base. It must be galling indeed to see today that that loyalty was for naught. A party must be flexible and broad in order to govern, but it depends on the loyalty and willingness of its adherents to stomach tough times. In this case the “fault” sits squarely with Specter.

And we’ll now see if voters agree with  Jonathan Chait’s conclusion that Specter personifies “hackdom.”

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Will the Left Back Specter?

The reaction in some quarters of the Left has been less than welcoming to Arlen Specter’s flip to the Democrats. Jonathan Chait of the New Republic weighed in quickly with a post on the Plank titled “Unprincipled Hack,” in which he states: “I think it’s pretty clear that Specter is an unprincipled hack. If his best odds of keeping his Senate seat lay in joining the Communist party, he’d probably do that.” Too true.

Chait ponders whether rank and file Democrats will buy into a corporate merger with this longstanding Pennsylvania “moderate” institution, and states that any Democrat, not just Specter, would beat Pat Toomey next year. Maybe. Having done the Dems a service by increasing their majority to a pro-Obama, veto-proof 60 votes, Specter will have ceased to be of interest to Democrats. So how long will it be until a Democratic challenger to Specter emerges? Left-wingers and pro-choice extremists held their noses and loyally backed a pro-life Democrat like Bob Casey against Rick Santorum in 2006. It is arguable, as Chait hints, that they will not do the same for Specter. Once the Left starts tearing into him on behalf of any Democrat who has the temerity to oppose him in a Senate primary next year, Specter will think back fondly on the largely civil critiques of his positions that came from the conservative wing of the Republican Party.

The reaction in some quarters of the Left has been less than welcoming to Arlen Specter’s flip to the Democrats. Jonathan Chait of the New Republic weighed in quickly with a post on the Plank titled “Unprincipled Hack,” in which he states: “I think it’s pretty clear that Specter is an unprincipled hack. If his best odds of keeping his Senate seat lay in joining the Communist party, he’d probably do that.” Too true.

Chait ponders whether rank and file Democrats will buy into a corporate merger with this longstanding Pennsylvania “moderate” institution, and states that any Democrat, not just Specter, would beat Pat Toomey next year. Maybe. Having done the Dems a service by increasing their majority to a pro-Obama, veto-proof 60 votes, Specter will have ceased to be of interest to Democrats. So how long will it be until a Democratic challenger to Specter emerges? Left-wingers and pro-choice extremists held their noses and loyally backed a pro-life Democrat like Bob Casey against Rick Santorum in 2006. It is arguable, as Chait hints, that they will not do the same for Specter. Once the Left starts tearing into him on behalf of any Democrat who has the temerity to oppose him in a Senate primary next year, Specter will think back fondly on the largely civil critiques of his positions that came from the conservative wing of the Republican Party.

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Cap-and-Trade Kaput?

The Hill has some rather significant news which seems to have eluded the rest of the media: cap-and-trade may go the way of card check (kaput). It reports:

The House may not vote on a climate change bill this year, according to a high-ranking Democratic leader. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told The Hill on Monday that leaders could opt not to bring a climate measure to the floor if the bill has little chance of passing the Senate. Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), had previously indicated they would pass a climate bill through the House by the August congressional recess.

This has the makings of the same Alphonse and Gaston routine which signaled that card check was never going to make it out of the Senate.

And there is a hitch: cap-and-trade was supposed to be a revenue raiser, part of the funding source for healthcare. So if we are not going to extract hundreds of billions of dollars from Americans in the form of new energy taxes how are we going to pay for nationalized healthcare? That’s a good question for the Blue Dog Democrats who have always been quite concerned about PAYGO (paying for what Congress spends). And it is of course a challenge for the Obama administration which has already stretched its fiscal credibility to the breaking point with the existing $3.6 trillion budget.

The Hill has some rather significant news which seems to have eluded the rest of the media: cap-and-trade may go the way of card check (kaput). It reports:

The House may not vote on a climate change bill this year, according to a high-ranking Democratic leader. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told The Hill on Monday that leaders could opt not to bring a climate measure to the floor if the bill has little chance of passing the Senate. Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), had previously indicated they would pass a climate bill through the House by the August congressional recess.

This has the makings of the same Alphonse and Gaston routine which signaled that card check was never going to make it out of the Senate.

And there is a hitch: cap-and-trade was supposed to be a revenue raiser, part of the funding source for healthcare. So if we are not going to extract hundreds of billions of dollars from Americans in the form of new energy taxes how are we going to pay for nationalized healthcare? That’s a good question for the Blue Dog Democrats who have always been quite concerned about PAYGO (paying for what Congress spends). And it is of course a challenge for the Obama administration which has already stretched its fiscal credibility to the breaking point with the existing $3.6 trillion budget.

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They’ve Busted Themselves

Tyler Cowen is scared of the sunlight:

At many blogs (Sullivan, Yglesias, DeLong, among others) you will find ongoing arguments for prosecuting the torturers who ran our government for a while.  I am in agreement with the moral stance of these critics but I don’t agree with their practical conclusions.  I believe that a full investigation would lead the U.S. public to, ultimately, side with torture, side with the torturers, and side against the prosecutors.  That’s why we can’t proceed and Obama probably understands that.  If another attack happened this would be all the more true.

[ . . .]

Pushing for prosecution would more likely endanger rule of law than preserve it, which is a sorry state of affairs.

And the opponents of enhanced interrogations say that the pro-side is Orwellian.

What Cowen actually means is, “Pushing for prosecution would more likely endanger my position than preserve it.” And he’s right. That’s because the anti-enhanced interrogation front has done themselves an insurmountable disservice with their incontinent use of the word “torture.” First, if there was ever a categorical link between that term and the interrogation methods employed by the CIA it’s long disappeared into the white noise of Huffington Post headlines and the Abu Ghraib body salad found daily on Andrew Sullivan’s blog.  Not only did these folks invent the torture; they supplied the torture fatigue.

They’ve been sloppy, lumping everything from Lynndie England to the false story of a Qur’an flushed down a Guantanamo toilet under the umbrella of Bush’s official torture policy. And they overshot — never more so than when Christopher Hitchens elected to be waterboarded (twice, just to make sure) and wrote that “if waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture.” Even if you feel waterboarding is torture, does it really exemplify it? More so than, say, electrodes to the genitals or bamboo under the fingernails? I haven’t read many first-hand accounts from journalists who volunteered to give those a whirl.

Second, waterboarding is not torture. Nor is a slap to the chin or confinement with a caterpillar. If there are hearings and Americans are forced to pore over the minutiae of the tough but restrained CIA techniques, the lurid inventions of Sullivan, Matt Yglesias, Naomi Wolfe, and Spencer Ackerman will read like science fiction by comparison. And that is one of the most damaging aspects of this drama. True torture, and victims of it, have been intellectually and morally slighted in favor of anti-Bush hysteria. The real thing exists, but you’d never know it from the exaggerations of those who’ve abused its likeness to meet petty ends.

Tyler Cowen is scared of the sunlight:

At many blogs (Sullivan, Yglesias, DeLong, among others) you will find ongoing arguments for prosecuting the torturers who ran our government for a while.  I am in agreement with the moral stance of these critics but I don’t agree with their practical conclusions.  I believe that a full investigation would lead the U.S. public to, ultimately, side with torture, side with the torturers, and side against the prosecutors.  That’s why we can’t proceed and Obama probably understands that.  If another attack happened this would be all the more true.

[ . . .]

Pushing for prosecution would more likely endanger rule of law than preserve it, which is a sorry state of affairs.

And the opponents of enhanced interrogations say that the pro-side is Orwellian.

What Cowen actually means is, “Pushing for prosecution would more likely endanger my position than preserve it.” And he’s right. That’s because the anti-enhanced interrogation front has done themselves an insurmountable disservice with their incontinent use of the word “torture.” First, if there was ever a categorical link between that term and the interrogation methods employed by the CIA it’s long disappeared into the white noise of Huffington Post headlines and the Abu Ghraib body salad found daily on Andrew Sullivan’s blog.  Not only did these folks invent the torture; they supplied the torture fatigue.

They’ve been sloppy, lumping everything from Lynndie England to the false story of a Qur’an flushed down a Guantanamo toilet under the umbrella of Bush’s official torture policy. And they overshot — never more so than when Christopher Hitchens elected to be waterboarded (twice, just to make sure) and wrote that “if waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture.” Even if you feel waterboarding is torture, does it really exemplify it? More so than, say, electrodes to the genitals or bamboo under the fingernails? I haven’t read many first-hand accounts from journalists who volunteered to give those a whirl.

Second, waterboarding is not torture. Nor is a slap to the chin or confinement with a caterpillar. If there are hearings and Americans are forced to pore over the minutiae of the tough but restrained CIA techniques, the lurid inventions of Sullivan, Matt Yglesias, Naomi Wolfe, and Spencer Ackerman will read like science fiction by comparison. And that is one of the most damaging aspects of this drama. True torture, and victims of it, have been intellectually and morally slighted in favor of anti-Bush hysteria. The real thing exists, but you’d never know it from the exaggerations of those who’ve abused its likeness to meet petty ends.

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Specter’s Switcheroos

According to Chris Cillizza, Specter has issued a statement. “I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary,” said Specter in a statement. “I am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers and have my candidacy for re-election determined in a general election.”

Specter added: “Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.”

But, of course, attributing to Arlen Specter a coherent or consistent “political philosophy” is giving him more credit than he has ever deserved. Specter, who originally switched in from being a lifelong Democrat to a Republican in a 1965 move to be elected Philadelphia’s district attorney, is the quintessential opportunist. Though he was elected on Ronald Reagan’s coat tails in 1980, he has always been in business for himself. As former Congressman Joe Hoeffel, his Democratic opponent for the Senate in 2004, put it to me in an interview, “It’s very hard to run against Arlen on the issues because he is on both sides of every question.”

As in 1965, this is a move dictated solely by political survival not principle. In 2004, he survived a stiff primary challenge from conservative Pat Toomey and won only by virtue of the strong support given him by George W. Bush and former Senate colleague Rick Santorum. But only hours after that narrow primary win, Specter began distancing himself from both of them. Given the fact that there would be no such help forthcoming in 2010 against Toomey, who jumped into the race after Specter voted for President Obama’s stimulus boondoggle, it was a given that Specter would lose the Republican nomination and his Senate career would come to an end. So rather than go down as a Republican, Specter will jump ship.

This is bad news for a number of Pennsylvania Democrats who were hoping to be able to run against Toomey in November 2010 and figured that the weakened state of the Republicans would ensure a victory. We can assume this means that almost all of the Democrats who were exploring a Senate race will back out, not wishing to anger a party establishment that is happy to have a champion fundraiser like Specter on their side for once. But my bet is that Specter will not go unopposed in a Democratic primary next year. There’s bound to be at least one left-winger in the state that will count on the moveon.org crowd to get behind a challenge to a man whom many leftists still hate for his questioning of Anita Hill.

Still, you have to assume that Specter will be a huge favorite not only to win the Democratic nomination, but also to beat Toomey in November. Pennsylvania has been trending more and more to the left in recent elections and Specter knows this.

This is very good news for President Obama who will presumably now have his 60th vote in the Senate when and if Al Franken is seated for Minnesota. But Obama and other Democrats should be prepared for a difficult marriage with Specter. He is bound to be as feckless and faithless a Democrat as he was a Republican.

According to Chris Cillizza, Specter has issued a statement. “I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary,” said Specter in a statement. “I am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers and have my candidacy for re-election determined in a general election.”

Specter added: “Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.”

But, of course, attributing to Arlen Specter a coherent or consistent “political philosophy” is giving him more credit than he has ever deserved. Specter, who originally switched in from being a lifelong Democrat to a Republican in a 1965 move to be elected Philadelphia’s district attorney, is the quintessential opportunist. Though he was elected on Ronald Reagan’s coat tails in 1980, he has always been in business for himself. As former Congressman Joe Hoeffel, his Democratic opponent for the Senate in 2004, put it to me in an interview, “It’s very hard to run against Arlen on the issues because he is on both sides of every question.”

As in 1965, this is a move dictated solely by political survival not principle. In 2004, he survived a stiff primary challenge from conservative Pat Toomey and won only by virtue of the strong support given him by George W. Bush and former Senate colleague Rick Santorum. But only hours after that narrow primary win, Specter began distancing himself from both of them. Given the fact that there would be no such help forthcoming in 2010 against Toomey, who jumped into the race after Specter voted for President Obama’s stimulus boondoggle, it was a given that Specter would lose the Republican nomination and his Senate career would come to an end. So rather than go down as a Republican, Specter will jump ship.

This is bad news for a number of Pennsylvania Democrats who were hoping to be able to run against Toomey in November 2010 and figured that the weakened state of the Republicans would ensure a victory. We can assume this means that almost all of the Democrats who were exploring a Senate race will back out, not wishing to anger a party establishment that is happy to have a champion fundraiser like Specter on their side for once. But my bet is that Specter will not go unopposed in a Democratic primary next year. There’s bound to be at least one left-winger in the state that will count on the moveon.org crowd to get behind a challenge to a man whom many leftists still hate for his questioning of Anita Hill.

Still, you have to assume that Specter will be a huge favorite not only to win the Democratic nomination, but also to beat Toomey in November. Pennsylvania has been trending more and more to the left in recent elections and Specter knows this.

This is very good news for President Obama who will presumably now have his 60th vote in the Senate when and if Al Franken is seated for Minnesota. But Obama and other Democrats should be prepared for a difficult marriage with Specter. He is bound to be as feckless and faithless a Democrat as he was a Republican.

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The Kids Are Alright

I’d like to nominate Lenore Skenazy as “Heroine of the Day” for her sane approach to child rearing. She is the so-called “worst Mom in America” who agreed to let her 9-year-old son get home on public transportation alone. He successfully rode the subway solo, she wrote a column about it, tons of angry mail and lots of media attention followed and poof a movement was born: Raising kids to be safe but without all the worry. Her book, Free-Range Kids is out today and she’s been hitting the airwaves, including a great interview with Brian Lehrer. One thing she said that is especially significant: “We’ve forgotten how competent our kids are.”

As Skenazy points out, parents have become indoctrinated to believe that there is danger everywhere and that no toy, no playground, no neighborhood is safe. Parents are supposed to supervise their kids all the time because supposedly the only way they can be safe is if their guardian is with them 24/7. But not allowing them any time by themselves, to play outside, to ride their bikes, to ride the bus alone, only stunts their development into responsible, reasonable adults.

She says parents are afraid of letting their kids walk down the block. One guy who wrote to her blog “wouldn’t let his kid use the basketball hoop” in front of their house because he might be abducted. “Parents are even supposed to stand with their kid at the bus stop,” she says. Indeed, I witness just this scene every morning, and the kids aren’t that young either.

Instead, Skenazy rightly advocates teaching kids to live in the world. She argues for teaching them to read a map, or how to get help from strangers if another stranger bothers them, and how to say no to a grown up. As she wrote in the Washington Post yesterday:

It strikes me as the height of IRRESPONSIBILITY to supervise a child at all times, because then they never learn how to do anything by themselves. What happens the day you’re not there and they don’t know how to cross the street? One lady I spoke to said, ‘But I always WILL be there.’ Who is the nut case here? The parent who prepares her child for independence? Or the one who assumes she will never, for a second, be separated from them?

Reminds me of the old Jewish joke about the Miami doorman who is asked to carry a young boy out of the backseat of a limousine. The doorman asks the boy’s mother, “Oh my God, can’t he walk?”  “Of course he can walk,” she replies, “but God willing, he’ll never have to.”

I’d like to nominate Lenore Skenazy as “Heroine of the Day” for her sane approach to child rearing. She is the so-called “worst Mom in America” who agreed to let her 9-year-old son get home on public transportation alone. He successfully rode the subway solo, she wrote a column about it, tons of angry mail and lots of media attention followed and poof a movement was born: Raising kids to be safe but without all the worry. Her book, Free-Range Kids is out today and she’s been hitting the airwaves, including a great interview with Brian Lehrer. One thing she said that is especially significant: “We’ve forgotten how competent our kids are.”

As Skenazy points out, parents have become indoctrinated to believe that there is danger everywhere and that no toy, no playground, no neighborhood is safe. Parents are supposed to supervise their kids all the time because supposedly the only way they can be safe is if their guardian is with them 24/7. But not allowing them any time by themselves, to play outside, to ride their bikes, to ride the bus alone, only stunts their development into responsible, reasonable adults.

She says parents are afraid of letting their kids walk down the block. One guy who wrote to her blog “wouldn’t let his kid use the basketball hoop” in front of their house because he might be abducted. “Parents are even supposed to stand with their kid at the bus stop,” she says. Indeed, I witness just this scene every morning, and the kids aren’t that young either.

Instead, Skenazy rightly advocates teaching kids to live in the world. She argues for teaching them to read a map, or how to get help from strangers if another stranger bothers them, and how to say no to a grown up. As she wrote in the Washington Post yesterday:

It strikes me as the height of IRRESPONSIBILITY to supervise a child at all times, because then they never learn how to do anything by themselves. What happens the day you’re not there and they don’t know how to cross the street? One lady I spoke to said, ‘But I always WILL be there.’ Who is the nut case here? The parent who prepares her child for independence? Or the one who assumes she will never, for a second, be separated from them?

Reminds me of the old Jewish joke about the Miami doorman who is asked to carry a young boy out of the backseat of a limousine. The doorman asks the boy’s mother, “Oh my God, can’t he walk?”  “Of course he can walk,” she replies, “but God willing, he’ll never have to.”

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Specter’s Switcheroo

Here in Philadelphia, the local television networks are abuzz with news that Senator Arlen Specter has switched parties.  Specter’s detractors and supporters will likely spend the next few weeks debating whether the longtime Republican has sold out his party or, alternatively, finally bought into the Democrats’ policy agenda after many years of being a Republican.  Either way, a few points are in order:

1. The MSM that once hailed former Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords’s party-switch as “brave” should control itself.  Far from brave, Specter’s move is nothing short of an exercise in outright survival: Specter was trailing so far behind GOP primary challenger Pat Toomey in the polls that he seemingly had no choice but to switch parties.  And even if this weren’t the case, Specter’s move reeks of political opportunism on the national level.  At least Jeffords had the temerity to buck the recently-elected president’s party when he caucused with the Democrats – and thereby gave them the Senate majority – in mid-2001.  Specter, on the other hand, is joining the president’s party and – assuming that Al Franken is declared the winner in Minnesota – has given Obama’s agenda a filibuster-proof free-ride in the Senate.  Our system of checks and balances has rarely been so fragile, and this fact should temper the MSM’s excitement.  (But don’t count on it.)

2. Pennsylvania Republicans played their part in this.  Much as Connecticut Democrats’ decision to reject Joseph Lieberman in the 2006 Senate primaries in favor of Ned Lamont ultimately came back to bite the party – Lieberman, after all, won the state-wide race as an independent – Republicans do not help their prospects by rejecting a figure from their own party who has long represented state-wide political consensus.  Granted, a left-wing Republican might not serve many Republicans’ policy priorities effectively – but neither will representation by two Senate Democrats.

3. With a filibuster-proof majority, the Democrats have reached a major political peak.  How long they stand on this peak is an open question.  But Republicans have physics on their side: what goes up must come down.

Here in Philadelphia, the local television networks are abuzz with news that Senator Arlen Specter has switched parties.  Specter’s detractors and supporters will likely spend the next few weeks debating whether the longtime Republican has sold out his party or, alternatively, finally bought into the Democrats’ policy agenda after many years of being a Republican.  Either way, a few points are in order:

1. The MSM that once hailed former Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords’s party-switch as “brave” should control itself.  Far from brave, Specter’s move is nothing short of an exercise in outright survival: Specter was trailing so far behind GOP primary challenger Pat Toomey in the polls that he seemingly had no choice but to switch parties.  And even if this weren’t the case, Specter’s move reeks of political opportunism on the national level.  At least Jeffords had the temerity to buck the recently-elected president’s party when he caucused with the Democrats – and thereby gave them the Senate majority – in mid-2001.  Specter, on the other hand, is joining the president’s party and – assuming that Al Franken is declared the winner in Minnesota – has given Obama’s agenda a filibuster-proof free-ride in the Senate.  Our system of checks and balances has rarely been so fragile, and this fact should temper the MSM’s excitement.  (But don’t count on it.)

2. Pennsylvania Republicans played their part in this.  Much as Connecticut Democrats’ decision to reject Joseph Lieberman in the 2006 Senate primaries in favor of Ned Lamont ultimately came back to bite the party – Lieberman, after all, won the state-wide race as an independent – Republicans do not help their prospects by rejecting a figure from their own party who has long represented state-wide political consensus.  Granted, a left-wing Republican might not serve many Republicans’ policy priorities effectively – but neither will representation by two Senate Democrats.

3. With a filibuster-proof majority, the Democrats have reached a major political peak.  How long they stand on this peak is an open question.  But Republicans have physics on their side: what goes up must come down.

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Talk About Your Unintended Consequences

I have argued that the Obama administration and the Left, more generally, have made a fundamental error in assessing public opinion on harsh interrogation methods. The public isn’t much bothered by a slap or a caterpillar — or maybe even by more — if American lives are at stake. It is their lives and the lives of their loved ones we are talking about. And they understand that, for all its faults, the Bush team kept us safe for seven years. Gallup’s poll on this subject makes that understanding abundantly clear:

A new Gallup Poll finds 51% of Americans in favor and 42% opposed to an investigation into the use of harsh interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects during the Bush administration. At the same time, 55% of Americans believe in retrospect that the use of the interrogation techniques was justified, while only 36% say it was not.

[. . .]

While a slim majority favors an investigation, on a relative basis the percentage is quite low because Americans are generally quite supportive of government probes into potential misconduct by public officials. In recent years, for example, Americans were far more likely to favor investigations into the firing of eight U.S. attorneys (72%), government databases of telephone numbers dialed by Americans (62%), oil company profits (82%), and the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina (70%).

Support for an inquiry into the Bush-era interrogation policy may be relatively limited because a majority of Americans believe the use of the techniques for questioning terrorism suspects was justified.

A new CBS/New York Times poll shows a stunning 62% don’t want a Congressional probe of Bush-era interrogation techniques. (By a 47-44% margin, respondents also said they want to keep Guantanamo open, yet another indication that voters’ affection for Obama does not translate to his policies on terrorism.)

The Bush administration and its supporters on the war on terror did not ask for this national debate. They did not seek to release operational details of our interrogation techniques to the public and thereby to the terrorists. They didn’t start out to unmask Congressional hypocrisy or revisit the dogged bravery of those who defended the country in the wake of 9-11. But now that this has happened, a great discussion is underway, which opens up the potential for a full accounting of what was done, why it was done, and what benefits we obtained from those efforts.

I would venture a guess that the public reaction to date was not what Congressional Democrats (and those in the administration favoring this course) had in mind. They might not have anticipated that so many would step forward (already) to describe the benefits derived from the interrogation techniques. Instead, they likely envisioned a final stake in the heart of the Bush anti-terrorism legacy. But then liberals never really appreciate the law of unintended consequences.

I have argued that the Obama administration and the Left, more generally, have made a fundamental error in assessing public opinion on harsh interrogation methods. The public isn’t much bothered by a slap or a caterpillar — or maybe even by more — if American lives are at stake. It is their lives and the lives of their loved ones we are talking about. And they understand that, for all its faults, the Bush team kept us safe for seven years. Gallup’s poll on this subject makes that understanding abundantly clear:

A new Gallup Poll finds 51% of Americans in favor and 42% opposed to an investigation into the use of harsh interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects during the Bush administration. At the same time, 55% of Americans believe in retrospect that the use of the interrogation techniques was justified, while only 36% say it was not.

[. . .]

While a slim majority favors an investigation, on a relative basis the percentage is quite low because Americans are generally quite supportive of government probes into potential misconduct by public officials. In recent years, for example, Americans were far more likely to favor investigations into the firing of eight U.S. attorneys (72%), government databases of telephone numbers dialed by Americans (62%), oil company profits (82%), and the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina (70%).

Support for an inquiry into the Bush-era interrogation policy may be relatively limited because a majority of Americans believe the use of the techniques for questioning terrorism suspects was justified.

A new CBS/New York Times poll shows a stunning 62% don’t want a Congressional probe of Bush-era interrogation techniques. (By a 47-44% margin, respondents also said they want to keep Guantanamo open, yet another indication that voters’ affection for Obama does not translate to his policies on terrorism.)

The Bush administration and its supporters on the war on terror did not ask for this national debate. They did not seek to release operational details of our interrogation techniques to the public and thereby to the terrorists. They didn’t start out to unmask Congressional hypocrisy or revisit the dogged bravery of those who defended the country in the wake of 9-11. But now that this has happened, a great discussion is underway, which opens up the potential for a full accounting of what was done, why it was done, and what benefits we obtained from those efforts.

I would venture a guess that the public reaction to date was not what Congressional Democrats (and those in the administration favoring this course) had in mind. They might not have anticipated that so many would step forward (already) to describe the benefits derived from the interrogation techniques. Instead, they likely envisioned a final stake in the heart of the Bush anti-terrorism legacy. But then liberals never really appreciate the law of unintended consequences.

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That’s Great, but . . .

In an AFP story headlined “Obama’s presidency improving US race relations,” we read:

As the US leader approaches 100 days in office, the survey found that about two-thirds of Americans — 66 percent — said race relations are generally good, compared with 53 percent in July.

Twenty-two percent of respondents said US race relations are bad, compared to 37 percent in July.

That’s well and good. Then comes the very next sentence:

The survey found that Black Americans remain among Obama’s staunchest supporters, with 70 percent of US blacks saying the country is headed in the right direction, compared with 34 percent of whites

So Americans report that race relations are improving, yet blacks and whites dramatically disagree on the direction in which the country is headed. This is an important detail that’s been widely overlooked in all the hoopla about the right-direction number passing 50 percent. It’s heartening that 70 percent of black Americans feel their country is doing the right thing. But doesn’t this stark difference of opinion between the races signal the very opposite of improved race relations? And does it not also undermine the enthusiastic talk of Obama’s ability to instill widespread optimism?

In an AFP story headlined “Obama’s presidency improving US race relations,” we read:

As the US leader approaches 100 days in office, the survey found that about two-thirds of Americans — 66 percent — said race relations are generally good, compared with 53 percent in July.

Twenty-two percent of respondents said US race relations are bad, compared to 37 percent in July.

That’s well and good. Then comes the very next sentence:

The survey found that Black Americans remain among Obama’s staunchest supporters, with 70 percent of US blacks saying the country is headed in the right direction, compared with 34 percent of whites

So Americans report that race relations are improving, yet blacks and whites dramatically disagree on the direction in which the country is headed. This is an important detail that’s been widely overlooked in all the hoopla about the right-direction number passing 50 percent. It’s heartening that 70 percent of black Americans feel their country is doing the right thing. But doesn’t this stark difference of opinion between the races signal the very opposite of improved race relations? And does it not also undermine the enthusiastic talk of Obama’s ability to instill widespread optimism?

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Getting There, Slowly

Larry Kudlow questions whether the fix is in on the upcoming GM restructuring plan:

The GM bondholders own $27 billion and they’re getting 10 percent of the common stock in an expected exchange. And the UAW owns $10 billion of the bonds and they’re getting 40 percent of the stock. Huh? Did I miss something here? And Uncle Sam will have a controlling share of the stock with something close to 50 percent ownership. And no bankruptcy judge. So this is a political restructuring run by the White House, not a rule-of-law bankruptcy-court reorganization.

Not only are the bondholders being asked to take a disproportionately small share of the equity, but they are being asked to take it in a firm in which the government would be the majority shareholder. Yes, the government would be the majority shareholder of a failing company. Yikes! If the experience of the TARP firms and decades of nationalized industries (e.g., Amtrak) weren’t enough to scare off the bondholders, the current rhetoric and regulatory schemes coming out of Washington (which insist the car companies produce unprofitable green cars) should be enough to petrify them. If there is any doubt as to how the government impacts shareholder value just check with Ken Lewis over at Bank of America.

But of course the bondholders can just say “no.” They needn’t accept the UAW bailout plan — which this appears to be. And if in fact they hold their ground and GM is forced into bankruptcy – real bankruptcy where judges are not moved by the UAW’s political clout — then they can make their arguments to a judge and defend their financial position on its merits. They could hardly do worse than the proposed UAW-Obama plan.

This may be the game here. The Obama administration “did its best,” but can say to its Big Labor patrons that it’s the “fault” of the bondholders that GM is forced into bankruptcy. Well, whatever political cover they seek, the result may be inescapable. Unless the bondholders cave to considerable political pressure (not an uncommon thing these days, as Bank of America and AIG can attest) GM will finally wind up, long overdue, in an apolitical bankruptcy court, the tried-and-true mechanism for liquidating and restructuring companies.

We may finally get there, albeit after tens of billions of dollars have been poured into a failing business that is going to employ fewer employees and play a smaller role in the overall American economy. Not exactly government at its best. But perhaps it is a peek at what will become a familiar pattern, as the banks learn their fate from the “stress” tests and find out they must come up with massive additional funding — which is unavailable except from Uncle Sam. Welcome to the era of post-capitalism.

Larry Kudlow questions whether the fix is in on the upcoming GM restructuring plan:

The GM bondholders own $27 billion and they’re getting 10 percent of the common stock in an expected exchange. And the UAW owns $10 billion of the bonds and they’re getting 40 percent of the stock. Huh? Did I miss something here? And Uncle Sam will have a controlling share of the stock with something close to 50 percent ownership. And no bankruptcy judge. So this is a political restructuring run by the White House, not a rule-of-law bankruptcy-court reorganization.

Not only are the bondholders being asked to take a disproportionately small share of the equity, but they are being asked to take it in a firm in which the government would be the majority shareholder. Yes, the government would be the majority shareholder of a failing company. Yikes! If the experience of the TARP firms and decades of nationalized industries (e.g., Amtrak) weren’t enough to scare off the bondholders, the current rhetoric and regulatory schemes coming out of Washington (which insist the car companies produce unprofitable green cars) should be enough to petrify them. If there is any doubt as to how the government impacts shareholder value just check with Ken Lewis over at Bank of America.

But of course the bondholders can just say “no.” They needn’t accept the UAW bailout plan — which this appears to be. And if in fact they hold their ground and GM is forced into bankruptcy – real bankruptcy where judges are not moved by the UAW’s political clout — then they can make their arguments to a judge and defend their financial position on its merits. They could hardly do worse than the proposed UAW-Obama plan.

This may be the game here. The Obama administration “did its best,” but can say to its Big Labor patrons that it’s the “fault” of the bondholders that GM is forced into bankruptcy. Well, whatever political cover they seek, the result may be inescapable. Unless the bondholders cave to considerable political pressure (not an uncommon thing these days, as Bank of America and AIG can attest) GM will finally wind up, long overdue, in an apolitical bankruptcy court, the tried-and-true mechanism for liquidating and restructuring companies.

We may finally get there, albeit after tens of billions of dollars have been poured into a failing business that is going to employ fewer employees and play a smaller role in the overall American economy. Not exactly government at its best. But perhaps it is a peek at what will become a familiar pattern, as the banks learn their fate from the “stress” tests and find out they must come up with massive additional funding — which is unavailable except from Uncle Sam. Welcome to the era of post-capitalism.

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Faithless Flighter

It’s been far too long since some mullah or Islamic body denounced a detail of infidel culture as dangerously blasphemous.

Enter the Organization of Islamic Conference and the Italian company Molleindustria. From the latter party’s website:

Today after an official statement of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) we decided to remove the game Faith Fighter from our site.

Faith Fighter was meant to be a game against intolerance that used over the top irony and a cartoonish style to express the instrumental use of religions.

Faith Fighter depicted in a mildly politically incorrect way all the major religions as a response to the one-way islamophobic satire of the Danish Mohammad cartoons.

If established organization didn’t understand the irony and the message of the game and is claiming it is inciting intolerance, we simply failed.

I’m not sure what “the one-way islamophobic satire of the Danish Mohammad cartoons” means, but I’m pretty sure that if Faith Fighter really was “a game against intolerance” it didn’t fail at all. It drew out its target and hit a bull’s eye. But then, it’s hard to take Molleindustria’s earnestness at face value. As the statement goes on, we learn:

This has happened before with games as “Super Columbine Massacre RPG”, “Virtual Jihadi” and our “Operation: Pedopriest”, works that attracted heavy criticism based on false assumptions spread by mass media.

To think, no one gave “Super Columbine Massacre” a fair shake. It’s not surprising that party’s like Molleindustria that set out to offend and outrage for the sheer obnoxiousness of it fold quickest when the chips are down. Just wait until the OIC sees that the company  failed to capitalize the word “islamophobic” in its press release.

It’s been far too long since some mullah or Islamic body denounced a detail of infidel culture as dangerously blasphemous.

Enter the Organization of Islamic Conference and the Italian company Molleindustria. From the latter party’s website:

Today after an official statement of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) we decided to remove the game Faith Fighter from our site.

Faith Fighter was meant to be a game against intolerance that used over the top irony and a cartoonish style to express the instrumental use of religions.

Faith Fighter depicted in a mildly politically incorrect way all the major religions as a response to the one-way islamophobic satire of the Danish Mohammad cartoons.

If established organization didn’t understand the irony and the message of the game and is claiming it is inciting intolerance, we simply failed.

I’m not sure what “the one-way islamophobic satire of the Danish Mohammad cartoons” means, but I’m pretty sure that if Faith Fighter really was “a game against intolerance” it didn’t fail at all. It drew out its target and hit a bull’s eye. But then, it’s hard to take Molleindustria’s earnestness at face value. As the statement goes on, we learn:

This has happened before with games as “Super Columbine Massacre RPG”, “Virtual Jihadi” and our “Operation: Pedopriest”, works that attracted heavy criticism based on false assumptions spread by mass media.

To think, no one gave “Super Columbine Massacre” a fair shake. It’s not surprising that party’s like Molleindustria that set out to offend and outrage for the sheer obnoxiousness of it fold quickest when the chips are down. Just wait until the OIC sees that the company  failed to capitalize the word “islamophobic” in its press release.

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They Have It Figured Out

David Brooks makes a compelling case against singular “global” responses to emergencies like swine flu:

The correct response to these dynamic, decentralized, emergent problems is to create dynamic, decentralized, emergent authorities: chains of local officials, state agencies, national governments and international bodies that are as flexible as the problem itself.

Well, that seems reasonable — and the polar opposite of the Obama administration’s approach on virtually everything. Healthcare is going to be “reformed” by a single, federal, one-size-fits-all plan, complete with a uniform standard (arrived at in Washington) for making all records electronic. Cap-and-trade is a Rube Goldberg system of industrial control, again, run out of Washington. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and the president are all for school reform, but not insofar as it might entail leaving in place a successful “local” program for school vouchers in their own neighborhood.

For a very avant garde guy Obama is sporting an agenda that is straight out of the 1960s. Federalism and free markets are out; big federal government is in. It is the antithesis of what Brooks is recommending. There is little room for innovation or experimentation at the state or local level in the Obama agenda. What if Massachusetts has a better idea for healthcare? Too bad. Maybe vouchers work in D.C. just fine. Too bad. Obama has very smart people, you see, and they know best.

Moreover, the programs he is devising are all hugely complicated and exquisitely detailed. His vision is premised on the notion that if we simply hire enough Washington bureaucrats and write a sufficient number of pages of federal regulations we will master the intricacies and contingencies that arise in each of our citizens’ lives. Our experience shows how easily government messes up on simple things (e.g., a New York fly-over, a DHS report), yet Obama is certain that massive new programs seeking to micro-manage health, education, and industrial output all will come off with nary a glitch.

Imagine instead if healthcare reform aimed for a “dynamic” and “decentralized” system, allowing states to try different approaches. We might repeat the experience of welfare reform where innovative governors (e.g., Tommy Thompson) laid the foundation for smart federal innovation. We might learn from a body of real data to formulate a federal scheme, or decide that people are perfectly happy with a diversity of plans.

That option never seems to dawn on the Obama team. No, they have it all figured out and will, it appears, on a party line vote, revolutionize healthcare for 300 million Americans. Not very dynamic or decentralized. And not very likely to get it “right.”

David Brooks makes a compelling case against singular “global” responses to emergencies like swine flu:

The correct response to these dynamic, decentralized, emergent problems is to create dynamic, decentralized, emergent authorities: chains of local officials, state agencies, national governments and international bodies that are as flexible as the problem itself.

Well, that seems reasonable — and the polar opposite of the Obama administration’s approach on virtually everything. Healthcare is going to be “reformed” by a single, federal, one-size-fits-all plan, complete with a uniform standard (arrived at in Washington) for making all records electronic. Cap-and-trade is a Rube Goldberg system of industrial control, again, run out of Washington. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and the president are all for school reform, but not insofar as it might entail leaving in place a successful “local” program for school vouchers in their own neighborhood.

For a very avant garde guy Obama is sporting an agenda that is straight out of the 1960s. Federalism and free markets are out; big federal government is in. It is the antithesis of what Brooks is recommending. There is little room for innovation or experimentation at the state or local level in the Obama agenda. What if Massachusetts has a better idea for healthcare? Too bad. Maybe vouchers work in D.C. just fine. Too bad. Obama has very smart people, you see, and they know best.

Moreover, the programs he is devising are all hugely complicated and exquisitely detailed. His vision is premised on the notion that if we simply hire enough Washington bureaucrats and write a sufficient number of pages of federal regulations we will master the intricacies and contingencies that arise in each of our citizens’ lives. Our experience shows how easily government messes up on simple things (e.g., a New York fly-over, a DHS report), yet Obama is certain that massive new programs seeking to micro-manage health, education, and industrial output all will come off with nary a glitch.

Imagine instead if healthcare reform aimed for a “dynamic” and “decentralized” system, allowing states to try different approaches. We might repeat the experience of welfare reform where innovative governors (e.g., Tommy Thompson) laid the foundation for smart federal innovation. We might learn from a body of real data to formulate a federal scheme, or decide that people are perfectly happy with a diversity of plans.

That option never seems to dawn on the Obama team. No, they have it all figured out and will, it appears, on a party line vote, revolutionize healthcare for 300 million Americans. Not very dynamic or decentralized. And not very likely to get it “right.”

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Re: Roxana Saberi

This report quoting Roxana Saberi’s father is ominous:

“She is very, very weak and frail … she is in a bad condition. She can hardly stand up,” he told Reuters. “I’m worried about her health. I’m worried about her life.”

[. . .]

“She said that she has started a hunger strike and this is the fifth day and that she will continue until she is free. I tried to tell her that this can be dangerous, but she didn’t give me any time to protest,” her father, Reza Saberi, told The Associated Press.

To repeat, Saberi is an American citizen. While “engaging” Iran and glad-handing Hugo Chavez the president would do well to keep in mind Saberi and non-Americans in similar situations whose courage demands our respect and support.

This report quoting Roxana Saberi’s father is ominous:

“She is very, very weak and frail … she is in a bad condition. She can hardly stand up,” he told Reuters. “I’m worried about her health. I’m worried about her life.”

[. . .]

“She said that she has started a hunger strike and this is the fifth day and that she will continue until she is free. I tried to tell her that this can be dangerous, but she didn’t give me any time to protest,” her father, Reza Saberi, told The Associated Press.

To repeat, Saberi is an American citizen. While “engaging” Iran and glad-handing Hugo Chavez the president would do well to keep in mind Saberi and non-Americans in similar situations whose courage demands our respect and support.

Read Less

To Seem, Rather Than To Be

Well, someone in the Obama White House had a nifty idea: wouldn’t Air Force One (well, technically, one of the planes that serves as Air Force One; that name is reserved for the specific aircraft that is carrying the president at the moment) flying around and over New York City, near landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, be a sensational bit of imagery? Wouldn’t video of such flyovers be pure visual splendor?

So yesterday, one of the specially-equipped Boeing 747s bearing the presidential livery buzzed New York City, with a close fighter escort. And I’m certain there was some spectacular video.

I’m also equally certain that such footage will never see the light of day, because nobody involved in this stroke of genius thought that New Yorkers might be just a smidgen freaked out by the sight of a jumbo jet flying fast and low over the city, with a fighter seemingly in hot pursuit. After all, 9/11 was almost eight years ago, wasn’t it?

New Yorkers, from the mayor on down, are livid — and justifiably so. Certain officials were notified about the stunt, but they were told to keep it secret. So people like the mayor and the general public had no idea what was going on when the jumbo jet roared overhead, low enough to rattle windows, with the F-16 right on its tail.

People, understandably, did not react favorably:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jn0tMMYEkQU[/youtube]

By Friday, some low- to mid-level White House drone (probably a holdover from the Bush administration, if they can find one) will be blamed. President Obama will “accept full responsibility,” a phrase which has come to mean absolutely nothing in respect to this administration.

And in a week or two, they’ll do something else even more thoughtless and tone-deaf.

To the conspiracy-minded, it could all be deliberate — an endless series of dumb stunts and public flubs and embarrassing incidents serving as bright, shiny diversions from the real work of the Obama administration. While we all point and laugh (or point and howl) at these moves, they quietly go forward with their agenda — bringing the banks under direct federal control, bringing the auto industry under direct federal control, “reforming” healthcare insurance to bring that under direct federal control, going after the credit card companies…

There’s an old saying that one should never ascribe to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence or stupidity. The Obama administration is starting to stretch the limits of that aphorism.

But gosh darn it, wouldn’t that video of Air Force One flying by the Statue of Liberty have been awesome?

Well, someone in the Obama White House had a nifty idea: wouldn’t Air Force One (well, technically, one of the planes that serves as Air Force One; that name is reserved for the specific aircraft that is carrying the president at the moment) flying around and over New York City, near landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, be a sensational bit of imagery? Wouldn’t video of such flyovers be pure visual splendor?

So yesterday, one of the specially-equipped Boeing 747s bearing the presidential livery buzzed New York City, with a close fighter escort. And I’m certain there was some spectacular video.

I’m also equally certain that such footage will never see the light of day, because nobody involved in this stroke of genius thought that New Yorkers might be just a smidgen freaked out by the sight of a jumbo jet flying fast and low over the city, with a fighter seemingly in hot pursuit. After all, 9/11 was almost eight years ago, wasn’t it?

New Yorkers, from the mayor on down, are livid — and justifiably so. Certain officials were notified about the stunt, but they were told to keep it secret. So people like the mayor and the general public had no idea what was going on when the jumbo jet roared overhead, low enough to rattle windows, with the F-16 right on its tail.

People, understandably, did not react favorably:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jn0tMMYEkQU[/youtube]

By Friday, some low- to mid-level White House drone (probably a holdover from the Bush administration, if they can find one) will be blamed. President Obama will “accept full responsibility,” a phrase which has come to mean absolutely nothing in respect to this administration.

And in a week or two, they’ll do something else even more thoughtless and tone-deaf.

To the conspiracy-minded, it could all be deliberate — an endless series of dumb stunts and public flubs and embarrassing incidents serving as bright, shiny diversions from the real work of the Obama administration. While we all point and laugh (or point and howl) at these moves, they quietly go forward with their agenda — bringing the banks under direct federal control, bringing the auto industry under direct federal control, “reforming” healthcare insurance to bring that under direct federal control, going after the credit card companies…

There’s an old saying that one should never ascribe to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence or stupidity. The Obama administration is starting to stretch the limits of that aphorism.

But gosh darn it, wouldn’t that video of Air Force One flying by the Statue of Liberty have been awesome?

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

A bipartisan group of senators in favor of sanctions and “benchmarks” for Iran tries to add some sticks to the basket of carrots the Obama administration is bearing. From Joe Lieberman’s speech at AEI on the subject: “My friends, the dangers of a nuclear Iran cannot be denied, diminished, or dismissed. There is no room for complacency, and no excuse for inaction, about this threat.The question now is not whether we recognize the nature of the challenge that we face, or the catastrophic consequences if we fail to address it, but whether we, as a nation and as a community of nations, can summon the insight, determination, and courage to succeed.”

1,804 different government subsidy programs? Yup.

Mayor Bloomberg is justifiably furious over the NYC fly-over. What exactly does someone have to do to get fired under Obama?

And a White House controversy wouldn’t be complete without another embarrassing outing by Robert Gibbs: “Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said Monday afternoon that he was unaware of the flyover. At his daily press briefing, Mr. Gibbs initially referred questions to the F.A.A. and the Air Force. When told that those government offices were referring questions to the White House, Mr. Gibbs said: ‘I have no information on this other than what I saw.’ Mr. Gibbs, pressed by reporters, said he had seen news reports of the flyover, but declared: ‘I was working on other things. You might be surprised to know that I don’t know every movement of Air Force One.’ Later, he added that he would look into the matter.” Somewhere Scott McClellan is smiling.

And you can’t make this up: the White House official responsible for this was on the board of IndyMac — before the feds seized it as part of its fraud investigation.

Cap-and-trade grinds to a halt as Democrats discover it’s a job-killer: “House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman delayed until next week further action on his big climate bill, amid sharp divisions among committee Democrats.The delay indicates that the House Democratic leadership is having difficulty rounding up votes to move the bill forward, amid disagreements over which industries and regions of the country should bear the burden for cutting greenhouse-gas emissions. Democrats from industrial and coal-dependent states have expressed concerns that the climate bill would sharply raise energy costs and hurt the economy in their states.”

Bret Stephens tries to refresh Nancy Pelosi’s memory. The take away: lots and lots of people know about the Congressional briefings and “amnesia” won’t work for long.

A fascinating discussion here on Bank of American CEO Ken Lewis’s claim that Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson pressured him to violate securities laws. This raises issues such as: Do we need a grand jury to investigate Bernanke and Paulson? And should all three of them “be pushed over the falls in a canoe?” (The bottom line: even if “pressured,” Lewis had a legal and fiduciary obligation to his shareholders.)

A bipartisan group of senators in favor of sanctions and “benchmarks” for Iran tries to add some sticks to the basket of carrots the Obama administration is bearing. From Joe Lieberman’s speech at AEI on the subject: “My friends, the dangers of a nuclear Iran cannot be denied, diminished, or dismissed. There is no room for complacency, and no excuse for inaction, about this threat.The question now is not whether we recognize the nature of the challenge that we face, or the catastrophic consequences if we fail to address it, but whether we, as a nation and as a community of nations, can summon the insight, determination, and courage to succeed.”

1,804 different government subsidy programs? Yup.

Mayor Bloomberg is justifiably furious over the NYC fly-over. What exactly does someone have to do to get fired under Obama?

And a White House controversy wouldn’t be complete without another embarrassing outing by Robert Gibbs: “Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said Monday afternoon that he was unaware of the flyover. At his daily press briefing, Mr. Gibbs initially referred questions to the F.A.A. and the Air Force. When told that those government offices were referring questions to the White House, Mr. Gibbs said: ‘I have no information on this other than what I saw.’ Mr. Gibbs, pressed by reporters, said he had seen news reports of the flyover, but declared: ‘I was working on other things. You might be surprised to know that I don’t know every movement of Air Force One.’ Later, he added that he would look into the matter.” Somewhere Scott McClellan is smiling.

And you can’t make this up: the White House official responsible for this was on the board of IndyMac — before the feds seized it as part of its fraud investigation.

Cap-and-trade grinds to a halt as Democrats discover it’s a job-killer: “House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman delayed until next week further action on his big climate bill, amid sharp divisions among committee Democrats.The delay indicates that the House Democratic leadership is having difficulty rounding up votes to move the bill forward, amid disagreements over which industries and regions of the country should bear the burden for cutting greenhouse-gas emissions. Democrats from industrial and coal-dependent states have expressed concerns that the climate bill would sharply raise energy costs and hurt the economy in their states.”

Bret Stephens tries to refresh Nancy Pelosi’s memory. The take away: lots and lots of people know about the Congressional briefings and “amnesia” won’t work for long.

A fascinating discussion here on Bank of American CEO Ken Lewis’s claim that Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson pressured him to violate securities laws. This raises issues such as: Do we need a grand jury to investigate Bernanke and Paulson? And should all three of them “be pushed over the falls in a canoe?” (The bottom line: even if “pressured,” Lewis had a legal and fiduciary obligation to his shareholders.)

Read Less




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